October 30, 2019 / 7:30 PM / 2 months ago

Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris restructures campaign, slashes staff to focus on Iowa

(Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris is trimming staff and restructuring her struggling 2020 campaign to focus more on a make-or-break effort in the first nominating contest in Iowa, according to a campaign memo seen by Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: Senator Kamala Harris speaks during the fourth U.S. Democratic presidential candidates 2020 election debate in Westerville, Ohio, U.S., October 15, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Harris, who has slipped in opinion polls over the last three months, will be “all-in on Iowa” and redeploy field staff from New Hampshire, Nevada and California there, the memo said.

The U.S. senator from California also will cut staff at the campaign’s Baltimore headquarters, renegotiate contracts and reduce the salaries of her campaign manager and all consultants, according to the memo, which was first reported by Politico.

Harris has fallen into the middle of the crowded pack of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election, losing support since mid-summer and lagging behind top rivals in fundraising.

A Real Clear Politics average of national polls shows her dropping from 15% support in mid-July, good for second place behind Joe Biden, to about 5% now, putting her in fifth place among 18 Democratic candidates.

In the race for campaign cash, Harris has brought in about $36 million since launching her bid earlier this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That is well behind leaders and fellow senators Bernie Sanders, who has raised nearly $74 million, and Elizabeth Warren, at $60 million.

Harris campaign manager Juan Rodriguez said in the memo the restructuring would bolster investments in Iowa, where Harris will spend the Thanksgiving holiday campaigning. Iowa hosts the first nominating contest on Feb. 3.

“These decisions are difficult but will ensure the campaign is positioned to execute a robust Iowa ground game and a minimum 7-figure paid media campaign in the weeks leading up to the caucus,” Rodriguez said.

The campaign’s presence in South Carolina, which hosts the fourth nominating contest and which Harris has made central to her strategy, will not be affected, the memo said.

“In a field of 18 candidates, we face an incredibly competitive resource environment,” he wrote. “To effectively compete with the top campaigns and make the necessary investments in the critical final 100 days to the caucus, we need to reduce expenditures elsewhere and realign resources.”

Rodriguez noted that successful campaigns in the past have undergone similar reorganizations before capturing their party’s nomination, citing Democrat John Kerry in 2004 and Republican John McCain in 2008.

Rodriguez noted in the memo that Harris finished the last quarter with the fourth most cash on hand, ahead of some candidates who lead her in opinion polls.

In a separate email to reporters on Wednesday, released hours before the restructuring memo became public, the Harris campaign said her focus on Iowa during the month of October, when she spent 15 days in the state, had resulted in an “organizing edge” in the state heading into November.

A Real Clear Politics average of Iowa polls shows her tied for fifth place in Iowa with 2.7% support, well behind leaders Warren, Biden, Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who are all in double digits in support.

Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Peter Cooney, Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot

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